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Making informed decisions

Article cover photo
Farmer Dave Lubben tests products in replicated strip trials for 3-4 years before deciding on implementation. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Carol Brown, ISA environmental communications specialist
Information compiled by Joseph L. Murphy, senior communications manager

Dave Lubben is well-versed in on-farm research; he’s been running tests on his farm since 1989.

“To me, every field is a test plot.” says Lubben. “They allow me to do on-farm research using my management style and my soil type to find reliable data.”

Lubben produces corn, soybeans and hay on about 1,000 acres, and runs a feedlot beef cattle operation with his daughter and son-in-law near Monticello.

Working with the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) On-Farm Network® team, Lubben runs research strip trials of at least eight rows, with and without treatment, to get a good comparison. They have researched tillage methods and completed population and fertilizer studies.

“It’s pretty simple. You can incorporate it into your cropping system. Like starter fertilizer--just turn it off, go across the field, get to the other end and turn it back on. When you combine — boom — you can see if that starter fertilizer gave you an economic benefit. You get the results right now.”

By having research plots Lubben can put a variety of things to the test. “Sales reps come and try to sell you a product or a concept. We’ll try it out for three or four years. Then we do an economic analysis and an agronomic analysis of that system or that product. That’s the value we get. That’s how we got started.”

Lubben works with the On-Farm Network team on what trials to conduct. They meet annually during the winter months and hash out ideas.

“They’ve got a whole page of stuff and I have some trials that I want to do. I’ll bounce my ideas off them,” says Lubben. “They will bring me product and I’ll put it in the field. They will come out and get planting information and do aerial imaging over the summer. In the fall, we’ll send them yield data when we’re all done. They crunch the numbers and put it all into a nice binder for us to see what it looks like.”

The ISA On-Farm Network field trials can help others across the state. Lubben uses all the data he can to make informative decisions.

“On the ISA website, you can look at all the trials — there might be 50 to 100 of them — there are guys throughout the state who are doing them. I might find there are 50 guys who only had a 2- or 3-bushel increase in yield on a certain trial. And the guy who’s trying to sell you the product might be saying there’s a 10- to 15-bushel increase. With the field trials, I can see what it’s really worth and what I can expect out here in the real world.”

Carol can be contacted at

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For media inquiries, please contact Katie Johnson, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

©2018 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.